May 18, 2011

What Not To Believe

This has been a pretty good week for vindication here at The Ad Contrarian World Headquarters.

On Monday, we reported that The New York Times had uncovered a deep dark secret that we've been screaming about for years -- that old people have more money than young people and the amount of money marketers are wasting on young people is insane.

Today we find that The New Yorker magazine agrees with us about the Pepsi Refresh Project.

First, a little background. About 2 months ago I wrote a piece called Social Media's Massive Failure. It was about the failure of the Pepsi Refresh Project. It was the most popular piece I've ever posted and was read by tens of thousands of otherwise sensible people.

It was also the most controversial piece I've posted. If you read the 95 or so comments on the post, you'll probably find that about 2/3 of the comments disagree with my conclusion that the Refresh effort was a failure.

This week The New Yorker published an article called Snacks for a Fat Planet. It isn't specifically about the Refresh project. It is about PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi's attempt to transform the company from the world's largest maker of soda and crappy food into a company with respectable standards and values.

It is actually a very interesting article and Nooyi comes off as an intelligent, thoughtful but somewhat jargon-y leader.

The article talks about Refresh as part of Pepsi's desire to be perceived as a "good" company.
...the strategy was to use social media to promote the image of PepsiCo... to bring the flagship brand more in line with PepsiCo's "performance with purpose" agenda...
Then it goes on to note that Pepsi's share had dropped 4.8% since the program was introduced.
... the Refresh campaign garnered more than eighty million votes, got three and a half million likes on Pepsi's Facebook page, and drew some sixty thousand Twitter followers... But the campaign didn't sell Pepsi.
Which to my ear sounds an awful lot like this paragraph from Social Media's Massive Failure...
....Over 80 million votes were registered; almost 3.5 million "likes" on the Pepsi Facebook page; almost 60,000 Twitter followers. The only thing it failed to do was sell Pepsi.
Contrary to all the proof-free assertions that awesome social media experts have been making, the article concludes...
It appears that hearing about all the good things that PepsiCo is doing to help make the world a better place does not tempt you to down a Pepsi.
As we know, there are many in the marketing world who cannot see the limitations of social media, no matter how compelling the evidence. Consequently, those of us with open minds and functional synapses need to remain skeptical and vocal about the "magic" of social media.
"Man's most valuable trait is a judicious sense of what not to believe." -- Euripides

More on this subject tomorrow. Big thanks to Sue Ream for pointing me to The New Yorker article.

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